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Travel Tales of Travail – Why Deke’s Knee Creaks

When my husband “Deke” and I went to Greece, we enjoyed places and experiences that will last a lifetime.  In Mykonos, we stayed in a luxury hotel with not only great service, but also great people.  The staff, including sensitive Virginia, insightful, young and accommodating George, and a very serious staff worker I nicknamed, “The Philosopher,”   We waved good-bye as we left, and I felt like I was saying good-bye to friends.  My heart actually hurt when we boarded the ship and sailed for Santorini.  Santorini being Santorini helped to heal the wounds incurred by our departure from Mykonos.  Truthfully, Santorini could help to heal the heart of anyone with its white cliff-side homes and breathtaking drops into the Aegean.  When it was time to leave Santorini, Deke and I were hopeful.  Athens awaited, and we planned on spending our anniversary in Paris.  I was filled only with happiness, anticipation, and hope.  The Gods, however, had some surprises in store.

The sky was gray when we arrived in the city of Athena.  We checked into our hotel, and proceeded to explore the city.  We enjoyed seeing history everywhere we went, and walking on Athens’ unique, marble streets.  I felt somehow profound in the shadow of The Acropolis; I took some glorious shots of the famous edifice at sunset, and we snuggled at night in the happy contentment that couples feel when they are having an adventure together. 

It remained mostly overcast, and soon the rains began.  Deke had some business to tend to, so he wore a suit and his dress shoes, as Deke tends to do.  Next to a bank, Deke stepped on wet marble, and down he went in his dress shoes.  The good people of Athens rushed over to Deke, but he refused their imploring to go straight to the hospital.  Instead, Deke stood up, limped to cab, and came back to the hotel.  When Deke walked into the room, he was ashen and I knew that this was worse than your average fall.  The pain in Deke’s knee and the rains only increased as he lay in the hotel bed.  Finally, the concierge called to have a doctor come to examine Deke’s knee.   Through the rain, the orthopedist came.  Deke was not in the best of states, and couldn’t quite understand the doctor’s Greek accent, so I translated.  For some reason, I am great at interpreting accents for others.  “I am afraid your patella is broken.  I will send over an x-ray technician to confirm this.”  And still the rains came.  The x-ray technician arrived, and right there in the room, he took an x-ray.  Try getting that kind of medical service in the United States.  The x-ray confirmed what the doctor had suspected all along—Deke’s knee was broken.  The doctor ordered a splint to be delivered to our room, and as the torrential rains only increased, a dedicated employee delivered Deke’s splint.  That night, Athens got so much rain that cars floated down the narrow streets.  The storms made the international news.
Are the Gods pissed off that we’re here? I thought as I gazed at The Acropolis from our window.  The doctor recommended we go back to the United States for Deke’s treatment.   It took days to get a first-class flight out (so Deke could keep his knee outstretched), so he languished in his bed tending to insurance and airline business.  In the meantime, I climbed up to The Acropolis without my Deke, and though it was glorious with the clouds over Athens, I couldn’t help but be a little cranky without my man.

When we departed from Athens, our driver told us that on the day Deke broke his patella, his son broke his leg.  I realized that I had been a bit self-absorbed worrying about my problems; the whole of Athens had seen better times.

When we arrived at the airport, a happy and enthusiastic young man helped Deke get into a wheelchair, and then wheeled him to our plane bound for Paris. 

“I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry honey that we won’t be able to spend our anniversary in Paris” (it was our anniversary that very day).  I assured Deke that it was okay—that we had a glorious time in Mykonos and Santorini.  

When we found our seats in first class, we were a bit puzzled.  The seats were no bigger than those in coach.  To make it seem roomier, the airline simply put a seat between people; the only problem was that the airline put down the armrests permanently and Deke couldn’t put his leg up; nor could he stretch it out properly per Doctor’s orders.  Deke grew cranky.

A French, feminine flight attendant did her best to cheer Deke up.  When he complained about the 
pain, she gave him extra attention.  “But you did not touch your breakfast; you must eat; you must eat 
for your strength!”  Deke did not oblige.  She tried again, “Would you like some chocolate sir?” 
Voulez-vous un peu de chocolat ?”   “Who di ha di what?” asked my husband.   I translated.  “No,” 
he said sadly, missing his appetite. 
The pain in Deke’s knee was only increasing as we flew past the Matterhorn and closer to Paris.  
Overcast and grim-looking, Paris did not look inviting.  Still, I looked with anticipation as the ground 
approached during landing.  Suddenly, the plane ascended rapidly; the pilot had abandoned the landing.  
He simply didn’t feel comfortable in the dense fog.  Deke groaned.  The pilot circled and attempted a 
landing one more time.  This time it was successful, and the passengers broke into applause.  Though 
the flight attendant tried to be charming even as Deke was wheeled off, he was not so charming in 
When we arrived at the airport, a frenzied employee greeted us.  It was possible we would miss our 
flight to Salt Lake because of the first abandoned landing.  The employee put Deke in the wheelchair, 
and pushed.  Bang.  She pushed Deke into the wall of the elevator.  Deke cringed.  We nearly ran 
through the airport, Deke leading the way and feeling every bump.  We made it, barely.  Finally, 
Deke could lie down and stretch out his leg!  We settled in.  I looked up.  There, on all of the 
international flights in the world, was the former wife of a man with whom I had once had a thing.  
I knew she did not particularly appreciate me being a figure from her former husband’s past, so I lay 
low—literally.  I couldn’t hide forever, and besides she was a flight attendant and on her feet.  
Luckily, she was not our flight attendant, though she did glance our way now and then.  I don’t 
know if she ever recognized me; she was accommodating and nice to Deke—maybe she felt sorry 
for him sitting next to me.  I will probably never know.
The flight was long and because of the pain Deke felt when he stood up, he avoided drinking 
anything to dodge having to use the bathroom.
When we arrived in Salt Lake, Deke found that his paperwork from the Greek orthopedist was missing.  
We looked everywhere.  Our flight attendant looked everywhere.  It was simply missing.  
We needed it to get reimbursed from our travel insurance company.  I approached the “luggage patrol.”  
I asked if our paperwork had been turned in.  “No,” she said disinterested.  We waited around for a 
while, Deke’s knee throbbing, until we finally gave up and went home.  The paperwork had of course 
been turned in, and the next day I drove back out to the airport to pick it up.
Well, we’ll always have Mykonos and Santorini.
Do you want to avoid as many travel mishaps as possible?  Try a luxury home exchange from 
International Vacation Home Exchange.  Their knowledgeable and friendly staff is sure to help you 
find the perfect vacation home.  See how this works.
Thanks to travel writer and photographer Sona Schmidt-Harris – Follow her on Twitter @Sonag2000

More Great Australian Destination Ideas

Queensland enjoys frontage on both the Coral Sea and the Pacific Ocean and was first inhabited by Aboriginal Australians. The state is quite large, so the climate can vary wildly depending on where you visit. From the tropical north to the outback region and down to the temperate southern country, QLD has a lot to offer. Brisbane lies in the Southeastern part of QLD and attracts a lot of tourism. The area is self-described as a laid-back environment that offers high culture without pretention. Whether you’re looking to stroll through a botanical garden, take in a show, or shop for high-fashion, Brisbane has got you covered. Queensland also features lots of wildlife, great surfing, and scenic backdrops for outdoorsy adventures. The Golden Coast is a sight to behold in and of itself, making QLD far worth the trip.
New South Wales is Australia’s most populous state, home to the ever-popular destinations of Sydney and the South Coast. NSW has some of the most unspoiled coast in the country, along with mountainous regions and even rainforests in the North Coast. It is certainly a noteworthy destination for those who love picturesque and natural vacation spots. The climate trends toward the side of arid, but up in the mountainous regions it can be downright chilly. There is also plenty of culture to be found here, for those who prefer city life. Sydney is the largest city in Australia and, as such, offers no shortage of attractions, events, and culture. It isn’t too difficult to get around in Sydney, with public transit a popular option for traveling up the coast or moving about the city, but outside of that NSW is a bit more isolated. Like most of the states, NSW has many different sides. These include bustling city and quiet seaside oasis, so there’s a little something for everyone here.
Victoria is home to Melbourne, a bustling metro area and popular travel destination. “Authentic” Australia is also in abundance in VIC, with the penguins of Philip Island, the Great Ocean Road along the coast, and stunning desert landscapes. As IVHE has previously noted, VIC is also home to world-class fishing. Victoria offers a great mix of culture and nature. Melbourne is an easy sell for foodies, sports fans, theatre fanatics, and music lovers alike, while the wilder part of the state sates the outdoorsy among us. There is also a robust wine culture here, which is something for both camps to enjoy.

Last but not least there is Tasmania, the island state to the south of VIC. This is a truly unique place, perfect for nature lovers. A whopping 45% of the area is comprised of nature reserves and parks. From scuba diving to mountain climbing, they’ve got you covered. There are also compact cities to be found, should you get a hankering for a touch of night life, but the real crown jewel of TAS is decidedly the natural beauty all around. If you’re looking for even more detail on the southeastern region (Victoria and Tasmania), we’ve even provided a more in-depth post on the subject.
For more great Australian destinations, visit our previous IVHE Blog.
Thank you to travel writer Emma Close.  

Deciding Where to Vacation in Australia

The “Land Down Under” is vast and varied – almost overwhelmingly so. In a perfect world, you’d simply tour the entire country from end to end, but most of us lack the time and/or money for such an adventure and must settle on one or two destinations. For hopeful vacation planners who are looking for an Australian getaway, it can be a bit tough to discern where the best locale is. Never fear though, we’ve got you covered! With a touch of research, some IVHE insight, and a little introspection on your part, you’re sure to find the perfect spot for an Australian holiday. (this is the first of two blogs on Australia)
                The first thing to understand about Australia are its states, of which there are six. IVHE has vacation properties in all six of them, so you won’t be at a loss for choices on that front. Western Australia is by far the largest and is aptly named, being that it comprises the Western portion of the continent. South Australia lies in the middle and extends out to the shore in a southern direction, while the Eastern side of the continent is comprised of the territories Queensland (the northernmost of the three), New South Wales (in the middle of this eastern group), and Victoria (by far the smallest and the most southern of the lot). Further to the south sits the Island of Tasmania which, despite being off on its own, should not be overlooked as a potential vacation destination. There are also two main territories. These include the Northern Territory, which abuts South Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory, which is a smaller region located within NSW. Deciding which state you’ll want to visit is the probably the toughest part of your vacation planning, so it’s best to start with an in-depth look at what each place has to offer the discerning traveler.
Western Australia draws quite a few visitors every year, a testament to all of the attractions it has to offer. The state has quite a bit of frontage along the Indian Ocean and much of the coastal region boasts a lovely Mediterranean climate.  A whopping 92% of the population of Western Australia is located in the southwestern corner, where you will also find Perth. Whether you’re looking to catch some sun at the shore, explore the densely forested areas, or have a true outback adventure exploring their mind-blowing rock formations, Western Australia has plenty for the adventurous traveler. Being that Western Australia is so vast, it boasts incredible biological diversity, making it a great spot for an outdoorsy vacation. Perth provides a good dose of culture and nightlife, to complement the vast areas of natural beauty.

South Australia is by far the most arid region in the continent. The coastal areas have a pleasant Mediterranean climate, but parts of SA can get downright hot during certain times of the year. The sea is always a great destination in Australia, and SA is no exception to that rule. There are also a host of bike trails, rivers and lakes, and parks and preserves for nature lovers. Wine connoisseurs are also in luck, as South Australia is a bastion of fine wine and great food. Adelaide is a very popular destination for visitors, with lots of culture and gourmet dining to be found there. The warm summers and mild winters make SA a good place to consider year round.
For more ideas, visit our next
Thank you to travel writer Emma Close.  

More Great Things to do in New York!

6.       Visit New York’s Highly-Rated Gramercy Tavern 
On 20th Street just off of Park Avenue South is my favorite restaurant in New York City, Gramercy Tavern.   There are actually two sections in this establishment—the restaurant and the tavern.  The restaurant is expensive and often the wait is long to reserve a table; however, the tavern serves on a walk-in basis, and has a welcoming and warm atmosphere.  With magnificent floral arrangements and creative cocktails, Gramercy Tavern provides a great ambience whether you’re there alone or with friends.  I have seen famous folk wander in amongst the lively and stylish environment, and some of my own favorite New York memories were created here.  There can be long waits on Friday and Saturday nights; however, Gramercy Tavern is also open for lunch, a normally less busy time to come.
7.       Walk Through Central Park
It may seem like a clichĂ©, but a walk through Central Park, no matter the season, is a must.  Part of what makes New York City great is the park.  Created in 1857, Central Park is iconic in film.  No matter how sophisticated you are, walking through the park and seeing things you have seen on the screen is a thrill.  Plus, you never know who you will see.  I waved to Woody Allen in the park, who waved back—good times.  The bridle trails are great for jogging, and the Shakespeare Garden is an inspiration in spring and summer.

8.       Linger at Any Coffee Shop in SoHo
The SoHo neighborhood in Manhattan, fashionable, exclusive, and artistic, is worth your time.  With numerous boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants, it’s great to shop if you have the money, and great to window-shop if you don’t.  When it’s time for a break, linger at one of SoHo’s many coffee shops.  It won’t be long until someone interesting walks through the door.  Some of the coffee shops feature community tables—perfect for the person travelling alone.

9.   Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge
To really get a feel for the various characters in New York, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  You can find everyone from the person walking to work to a man with a pet snake on one shoulder and a boom box on the other.  It’s invigorating, and you’ll feel like you’re part of the pulse of the city.

10.  In Pleasant Weather, Eat Lunch on the Steps of The New York Public Library on 5th Avenue
If you want to feel the rhythm of the workforce, go to The New York Public Library on 5th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan at lunch.  A business district, Midtown features the hurried employee looking for a reprieve during day. People with their takeout lunches relax in the sun on the steps of the library.  Behind the library is Bryant Park—another great place to go at lunch where you can find people playing chess.  There were once so many pigeons, that the city hired a falconer to release his bird at lunch to shew away the pigeons; the only problem was that the hawk decided one day to pick up what it saw as lunch—someone’s Chihuahua! Needless to say, the falconer plan was scrapped.

Wait, that was only 5, the first 5 are in yesterday's blog for 5.  Start planning a New York stay with IVHE in one of these luxury home exchange options in New York; it’s a great way save thousands in accommodation costs to stay in the city.  See how this works and read testimonials.

Sona Schmidt-Harris – Follow me on Twitter @Sonag2000

10 Great Things to Do in New York

As a former Manhattanite whose wallet wasn’t always full, I learned of some great but reasonably-priced things to do in New York.  Here are my suggestions:

1.       Have a Drink at The Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Station
Tucked away in a remote corner of Grand Central Station is The Campbell Apartment.  Sophisticated and historical, this lounge is the perfect place to meet for drinks during a busy, Manhattan day.  The lounge was the former office of business tycoon John W. Campbell.  The wait staff is the most refined I have seen in Manhattan; when I was last there, the waitresses wore pearls.  The lighting is ambient and invites lingering no matter how busy it can get.

Attend MetFridays at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
On Fridays, the balcony overlooking The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s elegant, main lobby turns into the best bar in New York.  With live entertainment, often chamber music, you can enjoy cocktails and appetizers in one of the world’s most renowned museums. Purchase tickets early to avoid waiting in line.

3.       If You’re a Literary Lover, Attend the Barnes & Noble Author Events Throughout the City
Some of the best authors in the world do readings at New York City Barnes & Nobles.  The Barnes & Noble at Union Square attracts a particularly sophisticated array of authors which have included Oliver Saks, Joyce Carol Oates, Frank McCourt, and Jane Goodall just to name a few.  Admission is free, and often includes author signings.

4.       Visit The Morgan Library and Museum
On the corner of Madison Avenue and 36th Street is the former residence of financier J.P. Morgan.  During his lifetime, his collection of illuminated manuscripts and other artistic treasures was vast, and it was decided that after his death these treasures needed to be shared with the public; his home is now a museum.  If you’re a bibliophile as I am, The Morgan Library and Museum is a must-see; the elegant library is so beautiful and has so many historic books, I actually had tears in my eyes during my first visit.   Of special note are Morgan’s Guttenberg Bibles; he also favored medieval art which is prolific in the museum.  While perusing, stop for afternoon tea at The Morgan CafĂ© in a modern setting or have lunch at The Morgan Dining Room, the Morgan family’s original dining room for a more formal setting.

5.       Ride the Staten Island Ferry for FreeNew York’s Staten Island Ferry is free!  Ride in winter or summer past The Statue of Liberty, and view downtown Manhattan at night—truly worth the ride.

Wait, that was only 5, check out tomorrow's blog for 5 more.   If your plans include a New York stay (and everyone’s should) IVHE has several luxury home exchange options in New York; it’s a great way save thousands in accommodation costs to stay in the city.  See how this works and read testimonials.

Sona Schmidt-Harris – Follow me on Twitter @Sonag2000


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